04 August 2015

Think Tank: Bougainville - hard choices looming for Australia? (part I)

James Batley

The 2001 Bougainville Peace Agreement (BPA) marked the formal end to the 1990s Bougainville conflict, even though a truce, and subsequently a ceasefire, had been in place since late 1997. Among other things, the BPA provided for a delayed referendum on Bougainville’s future relationship with Papua New Guinea. Under an agreed formula, the referendum will be held between June 2015 and June 2020.

There are now clear risks, however, that the BPA mightn’t last the distance. This post looks at where things are headed on Bougainville and, in particular, at some difficult choices the Australian Government may need to make in the coming period.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has taken a personal interest in Bougainville, having visited it both in opposition and in government. She’s been careful to avoid commenting on the independence question although there’s no reason to think that the Abbott Government’s approach will be different from that of its predecessors; it will have a strong preference for Bougainville to remain part of Papua New Guinea.

Think Tank: Sea, air and land updates

The 1st Royal Australian Air Force E/A-18G Growler
Zoe Hawkins, Mercedes Page and James Mugg

Sea State

The Philippine Government has voiced its interest in acquiring three more ex-Royal Australian Navy Balikpapan-class heavy landing craft (LCH). Retired in December 2012, the vessels have a military lift capacity of three medium tanks and offer a range of 3,000 nautical miles at 10 kt. President Benigno Aquino announced that the procurement process is going ahead and the Philippine Navy suggests that the LCHs will be stationed on the island of Palawan.

China and Russia have announced plans to conduct a joint naval exercise in the Peter the Great Gulf and Sea of Japan later this month. According to Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun, the exercise will include anti-aircraft and anti-submarine elements, as well as a joint landing operation. The proposed military drills are indicative of the growing strategic cooperation between Moscow and Beijing, and follow on from their maiden joint naval exercise, ‘Joint Sea 2015’, held in the Mediterranean earlier this year.

On Tuesday, Sweden declared its discovery of a century-old Russian submarine. This revelation comes nine months after the Swedish Navy undertook a high profile search for the suspected presence of a modern Russian submarine in the Swedish archipelago. However, Swedish Armed Forces have identified this vessel as the Som, a Czarist-era submarine, which sank after colliding with a Swedish vessel in 1916. Check out pictures of last year’s Swedish sub-hunt and footage of the newly discovered wreck here.

AUS: The Government’s plan for a strong and sustainable naval shipbuilding industry

The Commonwealth Government is delivering a long-term plan for a strong and sustainable naval shipbuilding industry. Over the next 20 years the Government will invest over $89 billion in ships and submarines for the Navy.

This critical investment will generate significant economic growth and sustain several thousand Australian jobs over decades. It is a key part of our commitment to a safe and secure Australia.

The Government will implement a continuous build of surface warships in Australia. This means that Australia’s shipbuilding workforce will build Navy’s Future Frigates and Offshore Patrol Vessels.

It’s the first time that any Australian government has committed to a permanent naval shipbuilding industry.

This strategy will transform Australia’s naval shipbuilding industry and put it onto a sustainable long-term path, giving the workforce certainty into the future.

AUS: Future Submarines and Frigates must be Australian built

THE HON. BILL SHORTEN MP
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG

SENATOR THE HON STEPHEN CONROY
DEPUTY LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
SENATOR FOR VICTORIA

SENATOR KIM CARR
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HIGHER EDUCATION, RESEARCH, INNOVATION AND INDUSTRY
SENATOR FOR VICTORIA

DAVID FEENEY MP
SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR VETERANS AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR JUSTICE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR THE CENTENARY OF THE ANZAC
MEMBER FOR BATMAN

FUTURE SUBMARINES AND FRIGATES MUST BE AUSTRALIAN BUILT

Labor has today called on the Abbott Government to commit to building both Australia’s Future Submarines and Future Frigates locally using a continuous build program.

While reports that the Government will build the Future Frigates in Australia are welcome, it is a disgrace that the Abbott Government still refuses to honour its promise to build the Future Submarines in Australia

Australia’s Future Frigates must be built in Australia and so must our Future Submarines.

USA: USNS Mercy Completes First PP15 Mission in Philippines

By Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Mayra A. Conde, Pacific Partnership Public Affairs

USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) sits at anchor off the coast of Roxas City, July 21. (U.S. Navy/MC1 Trevor Andersen) >>

ROXAS CITY, Philippines - The hospital ship USNS Mercy (T-AH 19) departed Roxas City, Philippines, Aug. 2 after completing a 16-day mission stop for Pacific Partnership 2015.

During the first stop of the Philippines mission, U.S., partner nation, and host nation service members and non-governmental organizations conducted subject matter expert exchanges, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief symposiums, engineering projects, veterinary events and provided direct medical care in the Capiz Province.

“Being compassionate and helpful is natural to human beings,” said the Honorable Victor A. Tanco Sr., governor of the province of Capiz, during a reception held aboard Mercy. “So despite diversities and differences, there is always a place in our hearts for others and especially to those who have less in life. Maybe our differences are God’s way of reminding us not to be selfish, and instead to share our countless blessings with others. I’m referring to Pacific Partnership 2015 serving as a true example of excellence in humanitarian service.”

USA: Under Secretary Rose Gottemoeller Travels to Japan

Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller will visit Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Tokyo, August 6-10.

On August 6, Under Secretary Gottemoeller will attend the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony.

On August 7, she will speak with students at Tokyo University about the importance of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education in Tokyo, Japan. She will then speak at the Symposium on Nuclear Disarmament Issues at the Center for the Promotion of Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. Under Secretary Gottemoeller will then meet with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida to discuss regional security issues, arms control and nonproliferation policy.

On August 9, Under Secretary Gottemoeller will attend the Nagasaki Peace Memorial Service.

On August 10, the Under Secretary will lead the U.S. delegation to the Japan-U.S. Commission on Disarmament and Nonproliferation, a bilateral dialogue in Tokyo covering weapons of mass destruction, and other security issues. Under Secretary will also meet with Japanese Vice Minister of Defense Hideshi Tokushi and other counterparts from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

News Story: PLA wish list shows why it won't dominate Pacific any time soon

Chinese Air Force H-6 Bomber (File Photo)
A report published by the People's Liberation Army Air Force Command College in November 2014 said China needs to develop new strategic weapons against the United States, Japan, India and Vietnam in the Asia-Pacific region, according to Japan's Kyodo News on Aug. 2.

The report said it is crucial for China to build up an air force capable of winning control of the airspace over Japan and the Western Pacific, one able to carry out reconnaissance operations and precision strikes. For this, China would need advanced weapons including new long-range stealth bombers and an anti-ballistic missile system similar to the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense of the United States.

Read the full story at Want China Times

News Story: Scarborough Shoal could be China's next reclamation target

China is set to begin land reclamation at the disputed Scarborough Shoal to build naval and air bases to defend the country's claimed maritime perimeter over the Bashi Channel, according to the Philippine Star, an English-language newspaper based in Manila, on July 31.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio of the Philippine Supreme Court expressed concerns about China's future land reclamation around Scarborough Shoal, which is about 198 kilometers west of Subic Bay in the province of Zambales. The territory is claimed by the Philippines, China and Taiwan and China has continued to deploy maritime security vessels and even warships to the area after a monthlong standoff between Chinese and Philippine vessels in 2012.

Read the full story at Want China Times

News Story: Beijing expands its maritime militia in South China Sea

China is equipping its maritime militia, with more armed fishing boats bolstering its muscle in the disputed South China Sea, according to Zhang Hongzhou, a researcher from Singapore's Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

Equipped with armed civilian fishing boats, China's maritime militia is one of the less studied agencies in the exercise of Chinese maritime power, Zhang said at a two-day conference held at the Center for Naval Analyses. They are usually deployed by the Chinese government to carry out various types of missions in disputed waters, from rescuing stranded vessels to conducting controversial island landings. To enhance their activities, Beijing is for the first time considering the formation of the country's first fishing fleet, said Zhang, as cited in a report by the Tokyo-based Diplomat.

Zhang said such a decision will also boost volume for the world's largest producer and exporter of fish and consumer of seafood.

Read the full story at Want China Times

News Story: Fiji Military Boss Says Sudden Resignation No Sign of Instability

Mosese Tikoitoga
(Image: Wiki Commons)
SUVA, Fiji — Outgoing Fiji military chief Mosese Tikoitoga said Monday the nation's armed forces were stable despite his sudden career switch.

The Fiji government announced Tikoitoga's resignation over the weekend, saying the military boss wanted to start a new life in the foreign service.

Movements within the Fiji military are closely monitored in the South Pacific following four coups in the island nation in the past 28 years.

Read the full story at DefenseNews